Danish Art Collector Speaks with LSD Magazine Team
Tell us a little about your transition from graffiti to renowned art collector.
My interest in art emerged from my background in graffiti. When I was a young boy growing up in Roskilde (about 30 mins from Copenhagen) I was introduced to graffiti and immediately became captivated. I pursued this interest which led to the introduction of legit graffiti artists, and later on contemporary artists as well. This became my entrance to the art world, and I slowly started investigating the different artists on the market and in 1993 I acquired my first work. The main motivation behind The Brask Collection has always been the same – which is to buy from the heart. I never imagined that the collection would grow to its current size, and I am thankful that I have been able to collect such a unique gathering of works over the years.
How did the first piece you purchased compare to your more recent acquisitions?
The first artwork I acquired was in 1993 by the Danish artist Michael Kvium and this work has a very special meaning and sentimental value for me. There is a first for everything and I am grateful that my first acquisition for The Brask Collection was by Kvium. The first work by Kvium led to many more in the collection as well as many years of friendship. I often think that the first acquisition for the collection could have been by anyone, but I find it meaningful that it was a work by Kvium. My latest acquisition was the work What Party from 2021 by KAWS. The figure is a return of KAWS’ well-known Chum character that made its first debut in 2002. I have always been a big admirer of KAWS’ artistic work and I am even more impressed by his position between fine art and global commerce. I think he is passing on an important inheritance from Pop Art and he has managed to create a style that has a certain cross-market appeal.
Your passion for art clearly runs deeper than merely collecting bankable items, share some of your thoughts.
Art is very important for me, and something I invest a lot of my time in. I am so grateful to be able to be working with art as my full-time occupation, which is something I never take for granted. I perceive art as a something that can bring people together, initiate a dialogue, and help broaden our perspectives. The very beauty of art lies in our personal perception and understanding of art. The viewer is the missing piece, and the experience depends on the individual’s interaction with a piece of work. If you enter a work with a passive attitude, the experience will be insufficient and disappointing, but if you engage and interact it can be extremely rewarding. Therefore, I make sure to invest as much time as I can to see and explore art in person, because I believe that the time you invest is nothing compared to what you get in return.
You mentioned a background in graffiti…
First of all, street art and graffiti are two very different categories, and I only have experience with graffiti. Street art can be categorised as post-graffiti and is often performed illegal by anonymous artists. Graffiti is also made anonymously and is understood as a subculture that can be performed both legal and illegal. Graffiti is an artistic expression form, and therefore it is no surprise for me that a big part of my work as a curator has been affected by my personal interest in graffiti. In my role as a curator, I curate murals with artists from all over the world, and for these projects I include contemporary artists as well as graffiti artists. From a very young age I became interested in arts visibility in the public sphere, and this is something I am very dedicated to in my role as a curator. I think the presence of art in the public space is very important, because it makes art accessible for a large audience. I find great joy in the fact that it can create trait for a certain area, become a meeting point, or help create interest, inspiration, curiosity and much more for those passing by. My interest in graffiti started at a very young age, and I am happy that it has followed me ever since.
International councils and cities have long opened their gates to the concept of street art festivals or graffiti jams. At what point did you decide to organise an ‘open-air gallery’ in Denmark?
I was interested in creating a project that could reach a broad audience and was able to integrate art into the daily life of a large group of people. The project consisted of 16 unique murals that were made in a time duration for two years between 2017-2019. The ambitions for the projects were to unite some of the most vibrating artists from near and abroad, and I am so proud of the final result. All the different artists came into the project with such a deep commitment, and they all created stunning pieces.
How did you choose the 16 different artists for the project?
I wanted to gather a list of artists that I believed could take on the assignment and create something extraordinary. It is not easy to create a mural, and many artists have never tried to create works in such a big scale. The artists that were curated and included in the project were: AIKO, Anders Brinch, Boy Kong, CMP One, Coline Marotta, DabsMyla, Husk Mit Navn, Jakob Tolstrup, Jon Stahn, Mad C, Mason Saltarrelli, Mikael B., Peter Birk, Roman Manikhin, Timmi Mensah and Victor Ash. The artists are a combination of Danish and international artists, and they make such a great contribution to each other. Some of the artists had experience with creating murals and others didn’t, but they all came into the project with a dedication to create something unique, and they worked hard to achieve it. The final result has become a well-known area in Copenhagen, and something that attracts visitors. This is something I am so grateful for as a curator and I think that the murals are such a valuable gift to the urban environment of Copenhagen.
You’ve published Brask Studio Visits books, tell us about that series.
As my collection grew bigger, I became more and more involved in the art world. In relation to this, I was meeting artists all the time and was often invited to visit their studios. This became my favorite part of the art world, because the time I got to spend in the different artist studios gave me time to immerse into the different artists work on a new, deeper level. The studio visits were so rewarding for me, and gave me a new understanding on the process behind art. Any given artist studio is such a unique place where ideas are transformed into art, and I felt an urge to share it with a large audience. So, in 2015 I started gathering the content for the first publication in the Brask Studio Visits series which was then published in October the same year. A new edition has been published every year in October since then, and this year we will release our seventh publication in the series. The new publication will be affected by the covid-19 pandemic, and it will be the first publication in the series that exclusively will be portraying Danish artists. Given the circumstances the last year and a half I am grateful to even be able to publish a new book, and I think it will be interesting to dedicate a book solely to Danish artists. It will provide me with the opportunity to go in depth with the current generation of contemporary artists in Denmark and present a publication that investigates the different currents that can be found.
Do you actively search for new artists or focus on those in your path?
That depends very much on what I am looking for. In my role as a curator, I collaborate with a long list of artists ranging from emerging to established, and everything else in between those two categories. I strive my best to constantly keep myself updated on what’s going on, and for this I think Instagram is such an incredible platform. Although I must admit that it also can feel overwhelming, I have managed to find my own way to navigate in the online presence of art. I am also in that lucky position that I know many artists who are good at sharing recommendations and introduce me to new, aspiring artists. Therefore, my approach is very different and depends on what project I am working on. If your question was concerned on how I spot new talents, then this is a matter of trusting my own gut and intuition. I am very intuitive when it comes to art – either I love it or hate it, which translates as either I buy it or leave it. When it comes to art it can be difficult, if not impossible, to predict tomorrow, and I have never been interested in the economic perspectives of art. If I come across a new talent, I just know it, and then I take action. The thing I enjoy the most is to take part in their journey and see how they evolve over time. It’s so enriching to see a young artist with a vivid talent, and then see how they slowly evolve over time and start to create a unique signature look that becomes their trademark. I believe that art takes on a whole new perspective when one chooses to explore and invest in today’s art – the very nature of collecting becomes fresher and more interesting.
What’s next for you?
I am very grateful to have a lot of interesting projects lined up that will continuously be revealed on my website. Unfortunately, I am not in a position to disclose specific details, but I hope that the interested readers will visit my webpage: www.jenspeterbrask.com and sign up to my newsletter. I can however reveal that new publications are in the making and I am also curating exhibitions, murals and many other interesting projects.